…is the basic mantra of tabloid journalism and a number of ODM’s.
Today’s case in point:
Here is a recent quote from an interview with Rob Bell in Relevant Magazine:
We refer to ourselves [at Mars Hill] as aggressively nonpartisan, so we donâ€™t engage in partisan politics in terms of â€œHereâ€™s whom you should vote for; hereâ€™s whom you should support.â€ We do acknowledge that the Gospel has deeply political edges to it, but that should not surprise anyone. Jesus was killed because of how He confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system. Heâ€™s a first-century Galilean revolutionary who proclaimed a Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod, so the Gospel does have political edges.
The interest is in giving voice to people who have no voice and using all of our abundance and wealth and resources on behalf of those who have a shortage. Some of our pastors had a meeting with the mayor of [Grand Rapids], which was simply for the purpose of asking who the most forgotten and the most hurting in our city are. They mayor had several very specific answers, and so weâ€™ve actually reorganized a whole area of our church, putting the majority of our efforts around trying to take care of the worst problems in our city. I donâ€™t know if you would say thatâ€™s political or not, even though it involved meeting with the mayor, but if Jesus comes to town and things donâ€™t get better, then we have to ask some hard questions.
For anyone who pays even moderate attention to Mars Hill Bible Church and Bell, this is nothing new or groundbreaking. In fact, it is something he addressed in a Q&A podcast this past summer:
I would say that we have a historic opportunity in that all truth belongs to God. It is not owned by the Republicans. It is not owned by the Democrats. It is not owned by the liberals. It is not owned by the conservatives. All truth belongs to God. And God has set us free in Christ.
Our culture worships at the altar of duality. Everything that comes to people – â€˜Is it this, or is it this? Is it conservative or is it liberal? It it modern or post-modern? Is it emergent or is it non-emerging?â€™ And the Kingdom of God – â€œhow God wants thingsâ€ – transcends whatever divisions our culture has created.
We, as a church, will remain aggressively non-partisan. The gospel has political edges to it. So when a person says â€˜oh, no, Jesus just came for the personalâ€™ – [I say] â€˜then why did they kill himâ€™? There were deep political edges that had implications.
The environment and our care of the earth is not a Democratic party issue. It is a Genesis 1 issue. If I met a woman today who is pregnant and thinking about terminating that pregnancy, I would introduce her to about ten women in our congregation who would tell her their stories, and I say â€˜we are desperate for you to not make that choice.â€™ That is not a Republican issue. That is an issue of â€™we want to affirm life, and we believe mistakes and redemption become opportunities for graceâ€™. So – any side that wants to say â€˜we own this issueâ€™ – if itâ€™s true you only own that because you borrowed that from God.
Iâ€™ve had people say – â€˜well, if youâ€™re saying that, you must be against the Presidentâ€™, or â€˜if youâ€™re saying that, you must be for himâ€™. Iâ€™m trying to articulate the way of Jesus, and I donâ€™t really care who is for it or against it – I just want to get the word out so that everyone can do it. If you take the gospel seriously, it will always feel lik you are flirting with various political parties, because it is not surprising that different groups would grasp different dimensions of Godâ€™s truth. â€™Well, if youâ€™re advocating for the poor, that seems to be a Democratic thingâ€™, or â€˜if youâ€™re advocating micro-finance that seems capitalistic – is that a Republican thing?â€™ As far as we know, itâ€™s true and it doesnâ€™t belong to anybody, because it belongs to God.
Can we be a church that transcends all of the ways our culture tries to divide us? What we are trying to do here at Mars Hill is to say that there is a truth that is not the swinging of the pendulum. It is the kingdom of God and it transcends all of the ways we try to divide ourselves. The beautiful thing here is that truth and love seem to be winning. I would beg this community to consider that when Jesus is fully on display, it wonâ€™t fit ANY of your boxes, so just toss your boxes out now. I am only trying to come from one perspective: Jesus. NOBODY will co-opt this stage or this community or hijack the agenda, which is that jesus would be put on display for the whole world to see.
I would beg this community to consider that what we are doing here is inviting ourselves to be a part of something our culture has not seen: â€˜OK, itâ€™s nice that you have that disagreement, and itâ€™s nice that you have that â€˜thingâ€™, but letâ€™s take communion together and then let us break ourselves open and pour ourselves out for the world. So, I would beg our community to have no fear. There is nothing to fear – Jesus can be trusted, so letâ€™s goâ€¦
It is pretty clear that MHBC and its preaching pastor are pretty aggresive at being non-partisan, as the church should be, taking the individual issues of the day and applying Godly, scriptural perspective to them – whether the issues have been co-opted by conservatives (abortion, micro-finance, justice, etc.) or liberals (caring for the poor, the environment, etc.).
Truth belongs to God, not a political party or movement.
Rather than deal with what is ACTUALLY being taught at Mars Hill Bible Church, though, ODM’s looking for a quick score, regardless of it being at the expense of truth, honed in on one sentence from the entire context of the conversation -
Jesus was killed because of how He confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system. Heâ€™s a first-century Galilean revolutionary who proclaimed a Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod.
- and ran with it, declaring to the world “Rob Bell, Your Liberalism is Showing“. [Merry - if you're reading this, please insert it as Exhibit 9,999 of "an uncharitable reader"] In doing so, though, the author shows more about his own ignorance of Biblical history and exegesis than a presence of ‘liberalism’ in Bell or his teaching.
As most serious students of scripture know and understand, there are a number of levels of answers to questions raised in scripture. The question being raised – Who killed Jesus, and why? – is one of them.
On one level, we can view Isaiah 53, in which it is clear that it is the Lord’s will that it would happen in order to take on the sins of the world.
On another level, we can point to the gospel accounts who identify “the Jews” (or, more correctly, from the Greek, “the Judeans” – the Jews from Judea, who tended to be more secularly oriented, or were oriented with the Sadducee party). We might, as well, observe that this was corroborated by the Romans who carried out the crucifixion.
On yet another level, we can point to Paul, who pointed to “the rulers of this age” as the culprits (I Cor. 2:8).
Paul, though, also indicates that all of us are complicit, through our sin, in the death of Jesus.
In truth, it all depends upon the context of the question “Who killed Jesus, and why?” of which answer is best suited – because all are facets of the truth. In this particular case, Bell is answering a question on politics, so he gives an answer that is based on the political truth of Jesus’ death.
In the first century, the Sadducee party was beholden to Rome for the power they held in the Temple. The writings of Josephus, the Essenes of Qumran, Rome itself and other sources bear this out. The Sadducees, who were of the priestly line, were in charge of the Temple and its rites, from which they gained vast amounts of wealth. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and his teachings about the kingdom were very much a threat to their way of life.
The religious Jews who followed Jesus believed that he was to be the Messiah – expecting him to be an earthly conqueror who would overthrow Roman rule and bring the physical kingdom into being. This was a direct threat to the Romans.
Politically, it was the Sanhedrin (made up of 65 Sadducees and 5 Pharisees (at least 2 of whom were sympathetic to Jesus)) and Herod which launched the plot to kill him, out of a motive of self-preservation, both physical and economic. It was the Romans who carried out the execution, in order to prevent an uprising (noting that the Romans killed scores of individuals identified as ‘Messiahs’).
So, again, Bell’s statement is one of fact, not of partisan politics or belief.
What is sad, though, is just how belligerantly dishonest some Christians can be when the importance of slander, profit and pride (all in the guise of “discernment”) outweigh the need for charity and the truth.